A constant struggle…
Rule 1: Never write “the end” at the end of your story.
Just kidding—about it being the end. Not the rule, never write “the end” at the end of your story. That’s ridiculous.
Now seriously, if you’re like me, you struggle to write a good story and have yet to figure out why.
A good story (much like a good blog post) must have a beginning, middle, and an end (and not necessarily in that order). A good story flows. It should be easy to read, easy to follow and should never confuse or bore the reader…but how do you that?
First, when you get the idea for a story, leave it just as that: an idea. I find that when I’m coming up a story idea and sit on it for a while and think too much into the plot, I ruin it. Because when I get the chance to write it out, I rush through the story and head straight for the end, because all I’m doing is trying to get down as many thoughts as I could remember before I forget them. I try to plan everything out without letting the story take off on its own, and that’s how I strangle most of my stories. That’s how they end up in the trash.
Instead, I like to think that being a writer is like being a courtroom typist: sit, listen, and type “whatcha” hear. Only for me, I can almost see the story as well, and that’s how I write out my descriptive paragraphs… Imagination! That’s what it is. Imagination.
Be honest with yourself
There are some people that have the idea that good writing can’t be done without a little “inspiration.” I neither agree nor disagree, but I will say that although a story can be written from any mindset, you must always re-read your work completely sober. And when you do, you need to ask yourself, “Is this story worth reading?” If you read it and decide that it’s trash (and you must honest), then throw it away and start again—but don’t cry at the death of your story; there are more days ahead (which means more time for writing stories).
The real work is done during the editing process
There will be others that claim “all stories need to be told and heard.” All right. Fine. But if that’s the case, and you can’t rid yourself of that horrid story, then you must shape a good story through editing.
I truly believe that all good stories are sculpted to perfection during the editing process. And some might say “duh!” But then those very same people will send in their stories to a magazine with no edits because they’re “perfect the way they are.” Yeah, right.
To quote William Faulkner, “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” And it’s true. No one hits it out of the park every time.
You must be brutal on the page. It should be scribbled and marked up; there should be notes, paragraphs and plot holes in the margins; commas and quotations and syntax should be your biggest enemies by the end of the story, and there should be a lot more taken out than put back in. Writing with too many unnecessary words is just bad writing.
Lastly, there are things like knowing the rules to punctuation and grammar, reducing adverb usage, knowing your prepositions, and things like that. These are important things to consider because readers will be more eager to look for your write-ups or articles if you have an excellent command of the English language.